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Wherein I Become a Luddite

June 8th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Much as I hate to admit it, and much as I regard the vast majority of people pushing the “Internet makes us dumber” line as vacuous douchebags, this seems about right.

Addendum: A commenter objects that the Internet is not displacing more “worthy” activities (reading Proust, socializing) but merely providing a new way to do these things. Lest there be any unclarity, my agreement is not some paper-fetishism about the superiority of hardbacks to ebooks. What I do think is true is that the very vastness of options the Internet brings together can make it hard—makes it harder for someone like me, anyway—to sustain focus on any one thing. I find it a lot harder these days to just sit for an hour with a book—pixel or pulp—and just focus on it for a hour straight. And I think part of that is attributable to the Net.

Tags: Personal · Tech and Tech Policy



4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 digamma // Jun 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I stopped reading when they quoted Lee Siegel, whose real objection to bloggers is simply that they are able to point when he is wrong.

  • 2 JustinOpinion // Jun 9, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I have many, many objections to that piece. I’ll mention just two:

    Even while admitting it is not so, the author describes the Internet as if it were “an activity”–something we sit down and do for awhile, then do something else. The reality is that the Internet has become a new way to do things. It can be used for serious research and discourse (supplanting, e.g. letters of old) or for mindless entertainment (supplanting, e.g. television). Instant messaging and social networking sites are not activities we engage in instead of socializing “for real”. They are socializing.

    The author also ends the piece by pointing out some ways in which the Internet experience doesn’t live up to other experiences (e.g. video quality); and that this gives him comfort since it keeps the other experiences relevant. But such an objection will be fleeting at best. The technology will fill those gaps. For instance as devices become smaller and more powerful, it will soon become just as comfortable to “curl up with the Internet” in bed as it is to curl up with a book. In fact I’ve had friends say that one of the reasons they switched to an e-book reader is that the tactile experience is better (no fumbling to hold back the pages).

    For better or worse, the Internet has and will continue to pervade everything we do. I don’t think it has really replaced more deserving activities so much as it has made our wide-variety of interests (most of which are and have always been banal) more accessible–both to ourselves and for the world to see what we spend our time doing.

  • 3 JustinOpinion // Jun 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I do indeed agree with the specific point you make in your addendum. The Internet is diverse and distracting like no other medium before it. An oft-forgotten part of learning to use the Internet effectively is learning how and when to ignore it and resist it. (Indeed this goes for much of modern technology.)

  • 4 sfer // Jun 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    The Internet is diverse and distracting like no other medium before it.

    Kind of. Television is very distracting and time killing too. The internet is different because it mainly interferes with work (more particularly it interferes with certain types of office and freelance work).

    I agree that Lee Siegel is an idiot.

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